Recent Comments

Molly McCourt

I’m so glad you bring Fuller House into the fray here! What’s so interesting about this show is how heavily it leaned on the nostalgia I’m sure viewers felt for its predecessor, yet check out the cast’s appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. (It’s worth the six minutes of your time, I promise) I agree that this spinoff with three women taking care of three boys is “weirdly conservative”-even regressive. However, on The Tonight Show, the cast of Fuller House appears in a skit that places Donald Trump in Michelle Tanner’s usual role. It’s clever to do this since everyone appears one by one (to the audience’s delight) to comfort the whining Donald who is afraid of being a loser. Yet, the promotion of this conservative show is couched in the very clear disapproval of the Republican front-runner in the race for presidential candidacy. In this way, at least one element of Fuller House—the late night promotion—is delightfully progressive.

Julie Nakama

This is such a fresh way to think about the interaction between celebrities and civilians! I wonder if one of the reasons the awards offer a stage for protest is because it’s an event that is very spatially and temporally defined? It’s a relatively safe, controlled environment. Protesters are perhaps likely to receive television coverage, but the possibility of the protest getting out of hand is small. Maybe one of the questions to add here is whether or not political protests at the Oscars are effective? It doesn’t seem like #OscarsSoWhite or the #Askhermore campaigns have had much traction since the awards ended, but perhaps others can speak to this question more.

Julie Nakama

I think that Rock’s dismissal of the #askhermore campaign was part of his overall strategy to diffuse tensions around the broadcast by drawing attention to deeper historical moments of racism. I thought it was a weird strategy because he seemed to be saying that racism within the industry is a problem, but also not really a big deal.

Natasha’s point about the contradictory commercial and cultural logic of the red carpet is really good because it points to the difficult line female stars negotiate as they try to establish their brand on the carpet, which is one of the few spaces that celebrates female visibility. A-list stars get paid well to wear designer clothes and jewelry, which they also need to mention on camera. Conversations about dresses are also about branding, promotion, and getting paid.

Raffi Sarkissian

This post and the examples you bring up from Oscar history (as well as all the posts so far this week) demonstrate the salience of the Oscar “stage” as one of the most potent sites for political intervention in popular culture. Yes, for the most part these shows are a trailer for Hollywood hegemony, but it makes those breaks in the program all the more relevant.

I am glad you pointed out all the backstage politics too. I had never seen the program where you got your clip from. I have done some research on AIDS protests outside and inside the Oscars in the early 90s, the prevalence of the red ribbon, and Hollywood’s “response” with Philadelphia. It is really fascinating how there is a dialog between the dominant Hollywood culture and marginalized voices - even before the feedback channels of social media - but they’ve been mostly invisible from the broadcasts.

Raffi Sarkissian

I appreciate how you bring up the difficult reconciliation between the commercial and cultural logic of the sexist practices of the red carpet, because I feel as though the (awards/carpet coverage) industry does not know what to do with this dilemma. I have noticed a slight change, a more muted excitement over the past year or two to ask the stars who/what they’re wearing. I wouldn’t call it progress yet, but it is a bit fascinating to see these hosts and programs twist themselves into pretzels following the prime era of fashion police (post-Rivers, see also: Kathy Griffin quits Fashion Police).

All of this evolving ambivalence makes Chris Rock’s dismissive reference of the #askhermore campaign at this year’s Oscars all the more disappointing. I’m curious what Natasha and everyone else thinks about that part of his monologue. To me, it was strange to hear so much bifurcation and reification of both race/racist tropes and gender in his opening.

Raffi Sarkissian

Thanks for the post, Julie! I am so happy one of the other posts brought in Zendaya because it is a clear extension of race politics on the red carpet, especially how Giuliana’s comment proved as a “break” from the fawning of red carpet commentators on Viola Davis and Lupita Nyongo in the years prior (which always felt a bit precarious to me). And Zendaya’s response was another great example of women of color speaking and representing themselves, turning the red carpet into a cultural battlefield — or rather, revealing the battlefield beneath the veneer of Hollywood glamour.

When I was following this controversy last year, I was also a little surprised by Giuliana’s apology that followed Zendaya’s statement. It wasn’t the typical, “sorry IF you were offended, it wasn’t my intention.” It seemed as if Giuliana really did a bit of research and searching because she noted, if I’m correct, that even though it was not her intention, she realizes that intentions may not matter and that her words hurt people regardless. In other words, it wasn’t a fake apology - and now I’m wondering if Zendaya’s rhetoric of solidarity helped prompt that turn.

I also think this was the event after which Kathy Griffin quit her post at Fashion Police, citing the “mean” nature of fashion police as something she did not want to be a part of. So, I think it is telling how one small ignorant comment can really show how increasingly fragile this awards fashion industry might be!

Julie Nakama

Really good question, Natasha. I was thinking about this “we” as I was watching Chris Rock’s opening monologue. I was struck by how he artfully avoided really claiming membership to any particular “we.” His jokes were aimed at the industry, at the White voting membership of the Academy, at other minorities, and at Black actors who boycotted the ceremony. By pitching jokes from multiple positions, I think he demonstrated both the complicated racial politics of show business, but also defended his own privileged position within the industry - while also pointing to the problems of that position. In terms of fashion, I was amazed at how many times the ABC red carpet broadcast went to Whoopi Goldberg. She seemed tapped to perform as a kind of ambassador for the network. Perhaps this is because Goldberg co-hosts ABC’s chat show The View. Goldberg said that her dress was a custom designed creation based on a dress Bette Davis wore in All About Eve. The historical reference here is interesting because it seems to contextualize the current moment within a long view of the industry, just as Rock did in his monologue.

Natasha Patterson

Thanks for your post, Julie. I was happy to be reminded on this story. So far, both posts have shown how the red carpet has become a site for important debates about race, gender, and the media (and my post will continue this tomorrow but from a different angle). I especially like your point about how Coleman’s response to Rancic’s ignorant comment helped to bring women together on an important issue. So much attention had been paid to how postfeminism sees women as individuals first, that it’s easy to overlook those moments or spaces in media culture where women actively resist this. How did you see “WE” playing out at this year’s Oscars?

Viola Davis at the 2012 Oscars
Natasha Patterson

I really enjoyed your post, Raffi, especially hearing Davis talk about her hair and the media’s response to the natural look. I like Julie’s point too about how her hair has become a marker of authenticity. I recall during the first season of HTGWM, there was also a lot of fan talk on Twitter about her (ill-fitting) wigs, leading up to that crucial “reveal” in the show. Clearly, hair has played an important role in Davis’s star image on and off screen. Yet, a powerful black female celebrity like Beyonce gets flack in the media for keeping her daughter’s hair natural, suggesting the politics of respectability around hair are very much alive. I’m curious how Davis has been able to work around these constraints so well…maybe incorporating these hair politics into her performances has become another way for her to subvert idealized white beauty norms.